On Becoming a Permanent Resident in Mexico

Last month I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book about ex-pat women from the USA who have chosen to make a life in Mexico. Tell your story, the editor said. Write about your experience. What was your reason for leaving our land of the free, home of the brave (my tongue and cheek terminology)?

I dug deep. Went back to the story about how I met the Chavez Santiago family thirteen years ago in Teotitlan del Valle and fell in love: with them, with Oaxaca, with Teotitlan del Valle, with the rug weaving culture, with Zapotec life and values, with the climate, archeology, history, artisanry and art.

Monte Alban, Zapotec archeological site, Oaxaca, Mexico

But, I always did, and still do, consider The United States of America my country, where I am vested and invested in language, culture, and especially social justice and political issues.

And, I am now spending most of the year at home in Teotitlan del Valle, with occasional, short stays at my apartment in Durham, North Carolina.

So, I went deep into that question about how did I get to Mexico, and more importantly, why I make it home, am comfortable and love it there. I will save this for when the book is published and you can read it for yourself.

Glyphs at Monte Alban Museum

(As a consequence, I wrote a blog post about the difference in terms: immigrant and ex-pat.)

By writing about this I realized that it is time to declare my commitment to Mexico by applying for a permanent resident visa. It was about time, I told myself. I have been living permanently in Oaxaca for many years but functioning as a visitor, leaving the country and returning. I wrote the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, NC, and scheduled an interview to make application.

(I confess, too, that the Supreme Court Justice nomination and hearings helped me make this choice, too.)

My application was approved and within two hours I received the official visa in my passport. I knew I had done the right thing after taking a pulse on why I was grinning ear to ear!

Flags for sale in Tlacolula, a size for everyone.

This means I will have 30 days after returning to Oaxaca to present this credential at the immigration office to get the ultimate, official identity card. Permanent means I no longer have to leave the country at the end of 30, 60 or 180 days. It means I can get a bank account and a credit card and own a car, get discounts and free admissions to museums, bus rides, and what else tangible I do not know. But, the intangible is that I belong in Mexico, too, and that feels good.

While I was at the consulate, I met Cecelia Barros, who heads up cultural affairs for the consulate in North and South Carolina. We talked about ways to bring attention to the talent, creativity, rich history and culture of Mexican people to this part of the USA. Our mutual goal: to overcome and disable the stereotypes and shiboleths that so many hold about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas at El Tule Guelaguetza 2018

I invited her to Omar’s presentation at Meredith College, and we are cooking up some ideas together about ways to develop educational programs that would offer greater cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. I’m excited about that.

My experience at the Mexican Consulate was positive and supportive, and did not mirror that of my Mexican friends and family who go to the US Embassy in Mexico City and are treated perfunctorily, with disdain and most often with denial.

Before I leave to return to Mexico on November 8, I will vote.

Gathering in the church patio, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca


22 responses to “On Becoming a Permanent Resident in Mexico

  1. Norma, I am impressed with this latest action on your part: permanent resident visa! Welcome! The same as my parents’ decision years ago (1943); they loved and lived…Mexico to the end of their days. Proud Americans, yes, both of them – however not proud of the way the USA was becoming (how sad). That is why their children are today dual citizens – and we can decide on ethical issues. We are definitely not pro-discrimination or separating migrant children from parents. Happy to have you forever in our Mexican community, my dear friend!

    • Dearest Elena, your family history is so meaningful to me. Thank you for welcoming me to your homeland. It is an exciting time. I am getting ready to vote in the USA for the mid-terms, and getting ready to return to Mexico. Which brings me to: when can we get together? I arrive in CDMX and am available on Friday, November 9. On Saturday, November 10, I’m going to the Bazaar Sabado. I could meet you on Friday, or in San Angel on Saturday. Let me know if anything works. Love, Norma

  2. Congrats Norma!

  3. HI! HOLA!
    Name is Glenn (UNC-Chapel Hill MSW MPH 1996)
    I’ve lived in Brooklyn New York, Chatham County North Carolina, Springfield Oregon, and may other beautiful places. I am staying in Oaxaca for the next 2 months and just want to say, I appreciate what you are saying and what you are doing.

    I’m exploring my options for living outside the US. And Oaxaca is making a serious bid.

    Best-Felicidades! Glenn (from Sacramento, California as of the last 17 years or so)

  4. So proud to know you, Norma. It’s so great to hear such appreciation of Mexican culture.
    I am sitting in the cafe of the African American museum in DC. I realize during this, my first visit to DC, that I have been to DF many times and admired Mexico’s national buildings & museums (as well as those of other world capitals) and have never seen the US capital. It is quite beautiful here.
    Hope our paths will cross one day. We’ll look for you when we come to Oaxaca in mid Feb.
    Pat Cervelli

  5. Oh, Norma, you are such a jewel. You spread goodness wherever you travel and your ability to make connections with people never ceases to amaze me. Dean and I are truly blessed to call you a friend in both Oaxaca and Durham. Thanks for sharing another beautiful story.

  6. Sylvia Johnson Feldman

    Congratulations, Norma!

  7. I am so happy for you! Wonderful decision!!! Dale❤️

  8. So very excited to hear about your connection & plans to continue connecting the US & Mexico!

  9. Beautifully written, Norma. Thank you for sharing this experience!

  10. Norma, I love your commitment to Mexico and to the U.S. You are a great ambassador for us in a land that has every reason to dismiss and despise us. I look forward to the book.

    • Well said, Gail. Yes, they do have every reason to dismiss and despise us. Yet, they treat each of us as indiywhile our government tells sweeping lies and promulgates discrimination. These days it is easy to be ashamed to be from the USA.

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